Where the Wind Comes From
People and Houses
Tell Me
Driving - the old and the young
Dandy Lion
Camp Fires
Knots in May
The Itch
A Genetically Modified Poem
Night closes in
The Rain
Mid Fifties in 2000
In the blink of an eye
The Criminal Mind

List of 2007 stories

The Itch

Ian was a nondescript sort of bloke. Medium height, medium build, medium colouring, mediocre. At school he never won a prize, a race, a second glance. He lived in a small country town with small horizons and smaller potential. He had a job at the local concrete block factory which made concrete blocks. He was the storeman clerk for the factory. He had to make sure there were enough materials to make the concrete blocks, and enough other materials so that the factory could continue to make concrete blocks. He had been at the same place for 36 years. On Saturday morning he and his wife did the weeks shopping. On Saturday afternoon he mowed the lawn and washed the car. On Sunday they went to church in the morning and visited her mother in the afternoon. For the annual fortnight's leave they went to the same caravan park in the same sea side town. His life was regular. His life was comfortable. His life was predictable. In the main Ian was content. But sometimes, at the odd moment, he would raise his head from his desk, or newspaper and look out of the window or at the wall, as if looking to see if there was more to life. Quietly wo©ndering. A buried, indefinable itch. The mood seldom lasted long. There was always another stock check to do, another order form to fill in, another shipment of cement to check in, another Saturday, another Sunday.
He had made a couple of attempts to enliven his secure but mundane life. Bowls with some workmates proved to be less than satisfactory. Most of his launches had ended in the ditch and the session in the bar afterwards was not encouraging. An invitation to go fly fishing required departure before daybreak, a long ride in the back of a 4WD with eskies and camping gear, long hours on the banks of a mountain stream while being tasted by mozzies and midges and no bloody fish. He tried tennis. Too much effort. He tried golf. Too much frustration. The Bridge club. Too damned hard. He always returned to the dull and dreary but comfortable lifestyle. But the small itch remained.
One Friday afternoon a new bloke came into his small, windowless office at the back of the store. Joe something or other. The fitter mechanic in charge of maintenance. Joined the company a few weeks back. "What can I do for you? Said Ian, ever courteous, ever cautious.
"Got a bit of a problem" said Joe. "Thought you might be able to help".
"What's the problem?" And it all poured out.
"I have just taken over the bush fire brigade. The last bloke has let things run down a bit. The stores are a mess, the files are a mess, and the whole flamin' place is a mess. I need somebody to tell me how to get the whole damn office into some sort of order. I thought maybe you could give me some clues. I haven't got the foggiest bloomin' idea of where to start. I know how to fight fires, and that's about all. Now they have landed me with this rotten job but I just don't know how to do it."
"Well" said Ian "I don't know much about how you run a fire brigade, but I could have a look at your stores."
"Good enough" replied Joe' "How about Sunday Afternoon? Two o'clock"
That meant a change to the time honoured visit to his ancient mother-in-law. Would his lady wife object? But it was in a good cause. Ian was not a bad sort. Just dull. But a dull man with an itch.
"I'll be there."
Come Sunday and Ian turned up at the station. Joe greeted him at the door. "Come on in, mate. I'll show you round the place first. Then we'll look at the office."
It was a concrete block building comprising of a garage, a store , an office that doubled as an op's room, a shower and a toilet and an all purpose lounge, bar, lecture room, bunk room,. A tall radio mast tower pointed skywards from the roof. At the back was a shed that housed a generator and fuel. It all looked pretty functional to Ian's untrained eye. The office was a different story. One vinyl topped desk with sundry cigarette burns and stains, one battered swivel chair, one ancient, wooden filing cabinet, two battle scarred card files and a collection of dried out biros in a beer glass. Two filing baskets contained a dozen or more dog-eared grimy manila folders. A two year old calendar advertising a local hard ware merchant hung lopsided on the wall beneath a 24 hour clock that was 20 minutes slow. A quick shuffle through the files in the cabinet showed the vestiges of a system that was probably capable of being resuscitated. There were a dozen letters requiring response. The roster list had two members who had died last year. Looked like a couple of days work to sort Ian told Joe, but not much more.
Then they went to the store. Joe had called it a mess. That was a polite term. Ian may have been a dull man, not given to strong emotion, but this place was everything a storeman loathed. It was untidy, it was messy, it was mucky, it was unorganised, it was chaotic, it was indescribable. Old hose, drip torches, pump spares, buckets, beaters, overalls, batteries, fuel drums, helmets, sparkplugs, rope, more hose, light globes, wire, cable, chain, saws, axes, boxes were piled atop each other on shelf and floor. And everywhere was dust and dirt.
"What do you reckon?' said Joe.
"Somebody needs a kick up the backside. It needs a complete and total clean out, sort the garbage from the useful, draw up an inventory and restore. It'll take days. How could anybody function with a crap heap like that?"
"Well they didn't function real well as it happens. That's why I got the job. Care to do what is necessary? I can organise a work party if you show them what they have to do"
"Sure, glad to, and I sure would need a lot of help" replied Ian "And what about keeping everything up to scratch once we get this pig sty straightened out."
"Why don't you just keep it goin'?" said Joe. "Train up somebody as a deputy. Of course there would be a load of other jobs around, like running the radio when the boys are out, organising drinks and tucker, answering the bloody phone, that sort of thing."
All his life, without realising it, Ian had been searching for some deeper purpose to his life. This was the itch that had sometimes surfaced. It was not a big step. Just another job as storeman, but a storeman with a bit of glamour, a bit macho.br> Ian scratched his head a moment, and then said …."I'll think about it."

F Brown

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